In Southern Illinois, everyone wants to talk about land, how to get it, and what it’s worth. At least, that’s how it goes in the office of Brett Berger, who owns a farm and commercial appraisal company based in Albion.
Most of the time, Berger says, those conversations about land have a negative spin.
“People are uneasy when it comes to land values and sales, because we keep hearing about the doom and gloom,” he said. “Right now, the market is very erratic, more so than it has been.”
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While any jump in taxes or land value is noticeable, Berger said the swings have been close to 10 percent around the region over the past year.
“We like land and following what it’s doing, and overanalyzing it here,” he said. “But it looks to be pretty even, so you can’t believe everything you hear.”
In fact, Carbondale and Marion are both showing upticks in the sales of commercial and farm real estate, according to Jerry Beasley, a real estate agent in Marion.
In both cities, more land plots and commercial properties have been sold so far this year compared to the same time frame in 2014.
For example, 12 commercial properties were sold so far this year in Marion compared to 8 last year.
“Marion is growing, it's the hub of the region and a lot of people want to be there,” Beasley said. “One reason is most people want to be in a faster growth area, they can grow along with everything else is growing.”
While prices continue to fluctuate, it’s nowhere near a financial crisis, according to Phil Eberle, a retired professor of agriculture at Southern Illinois University.
“You have to look at owning farmland kind of like owning stock in the stock market,” he said. “Basically, we're in a situation where it's unknown most of the time, and there are high points and low points, and you hope it levels off.”
To him, any sale or purchase of land in Southern Illinois is a big deal.
“It's not something that happens everyday and it’s not easy for just anyone to buy land or buy a farm, it’s a very big capital investment,” Eberle said. “You'd almost have to get the land from a family to start out in most places or be very well off.”
According to Berger, less than 10 commercial plots or farms are sold in Marion or Carbondale each year.
“Land is a big deal here, and so is getting restaurants and big business to come here,” he said. “We’re a region that will always have to balance that.”